Ski resorts in Oregon

(Nine of the 13 ski areas in the state are closed)

Hoodoo

Location: Santiam Pass, west of Sisters

Status: Closed

Mt. Bachelor

Location: 20 miles west of Bend

Status: Open with 50 inches of snow at the base

Willamette Pass

Location: Off state Highway 58, southwest of Bend

Status: Closed

Anthony Lakes

Location: Northeast Oregon near North Powder

Status: Open with a 49-inch base

Mount Ashland

Location: Southern Oregon, west of Ashland

Status: Closed

Ski Bowl

Location: Mount Hood

Status: Closed

Meadows

Location: Mount Hood

Status: Open with a 32-inch base

Timberline

Location: Mount Hood

Status: Open with a 48-inch base

Cooper Spur

Location: Mount Hood

Status: Closed

Summit Ski Area

Location: Mount Hood

Status: Closed

Ferguson Ridge

Location: Northeast Oregon near Joseph

Status: Closed

Spout Springs Ski Resort

Location: Northeast Oregon near Elgin

Status: Closed

Warner Canyon Ski Area

Location: Southern Oregon near Lakeview

Status: Closed

Rick Geraths has owned a season pass to Hoodoo Ski Area each of the past 45 years.

He has seen some weak winters at the resort near Sisters — but he has never seen anything like this.

“This isn’t new, but it’s kind of weird having it two years in a row,” says Geraths, a 57-year-old Sisters resident.

Now nearing the heart of winter in mid-February, there is precious little snow at Hoodoo, located at 4,668 feet in elevation on Santiam Pass. After opening Dec. 31 and remaining open for the first two weekends of 2015, Hoodoo has been closed since Jan. 12 due to lack of snow. Last winter, Hoodoo did not open until Feb. 8, and it was open for a few weeks, again for lack of snow.

The 2013-14 season was Hoodoo’s third-shortest in its 76-year history, but this season could be shorter.

One snowstorm brought 26 inches of snow to the ski area and allowed it to open on New Year’s Eve, but with a combination of rain and unseasonably warm weather ever since, the snow base is pretty much nonexistent — just 4 inches as of Tuesday. (Hoodoo received 2 inches of snow on Monday night and Tuesday morning.)

But the ski area needs 3 feet of snow to be able to effectively groom the slopes and reopen to skiers and snowboarders, according to Hoodoo general manager Matthew McFarland.

“We’re not even close, but our plan is to open,” McFarland says. “If we get 3 feet of snow, we’ll gladly open back up. There’s still another couple months of skiing left if we get snow. You could have one storm be enough. And we’re ready. So if we get one big storm tomorrow, we could be grooming it and open a couple days after that. It’s not far away. It’s not a slow process once the snow comes back.”

Or IF the snow comes back.

Hoodoo is not alone in its struggles to open its slopes this winter. Many other ski areas in Oregon remain closed due to lack of snow.

Hoodoo typically opens by mid-December and closes in mid-April. If there is still no snow by mid-March, McFarland says, Hoodoo might not reopen at all this season.

“If we’re not open for spring break, there’s no reason to be open for April, even if we get a storm or two,” he says. “At that point it becomes kind of just a waste. Plus, what’s the likelihood that employees are going to be standing around wanting to work by then?

“We work on a seasonal staff, so we’ve got 100-odd people who were wishing they were working. The reality is they need to eat. Unemployment (insurance) only goes so far, so I would guess that they are all after any other job.”

McFarland says that most of Hoodoo’s loyal customers have been understanding. Geraths says he feels bad for the ski area and its employees.

“There’s a whole bunch of employees there who aren’t getting paychecks,” Geraths says. “I don’t know how long they can take a hit like that.”

For now, McFarland says, Hoodoo season passes are being honored at Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort in northeast Oregon. Anthony Lakes, at 7,100 feet, reported a base depth of 49 inches on Tuesday. The problem is that Anthony Lakes, located near North Powder in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, is a 247-mile drive from Bend.

McFarland understands this, so Hoodoo is allowing its season-pass holders to roll their passes over to next season, which the ski area did after last season as well.

“We understand the customer comes first, and we do what we have to do to take care of them,” McFarland says. “If they bought a pass for something that didn’t happen, we can’t hold that against them. Anybody who wants to roll their pass, we’ll roll it again. We don’t mind doing that. Some people might want refunds, and we will talk about that come mid-March.”

Geraths holds a season pass to Mt. Bachelor ski area as well, and that is where he — and many other skiers and snowboarders from around the state who cannot go elsewhere — have been skiing this winter. But even Bachelor, which has a base elevation of 5,700 feet and summit of 9,065 feet, reported just a 50-inch snow base on Tuesday, although the mountain received 19 inches of new snow in the past seven days. Typically this deep into winter Bachelor will have well more than 100 inches of snow.

“Hoodoo typically has some low snow years,” Geraths says. “But Bachelor never does. This year, Bachelor is hurting for snow. It’s really weird.”

Still, Geraths says he recalls seasons at Hoodoo during which the resort boasted a snow base of more than 20 feet.

McFarland says this is likely just a “weird couple of years” rather than the new normal.

“This has happened before in the ’80s and the ’70s at Hoodoo,” McFarland notes. “It’s something you expect maybe once a decade, but twice in a row like this is a little crazy. All the old-timers are saying they’ve seen this before, but never twice in a row.”

McFarland is open and honest with his advice to snow enthusiasts who are currently looking for a place to ski or snowboard.

“The truth is, if you want to ski, go to Mt. Bachelor,” he states. “Mt. Bachelor has the best snow around right now. They’ve got the best and the most snow of anywhere in the Northwest.”

—Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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